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Exclusion from Cursillo of divorced raises wider theological questions.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A 12-year participant in the lay-led Cursillo movement is questioning that organization's practice of excluding from its U.S. leadership teams people who are divorced and remarried without an annulment.

As a result of George Gerner's inquiries, the organization's national secretariat will consider the subject "for review and subsequent action" when it meets Jan. 30, Tom Sarg, the U.S. Cursillo movement's new executive director, recently wrote to Gerner, who lives in Annandale, Va.

The exclusion of people remarried without annulment in Cursillo raises the specter of further exclusions based upon, for example, couples' birth-control practices, Gerner told NCR.

The first Cursillo was held in Spain in 1949. Imported to the United States in 1957, the movement today functions in more than 180 dioceses. It has about half a million U.S. members, Sarg said.

Participants, or Cursillistas, initially attend a three-day short course in Christian living. (Cursillo means "little course" in Spanish.) This is followed by weekly meetings in which small communities review their members' progress in piety, study and apostolic action.

Gerner said team leaders, who conduct Cursillo weekends according to carefully prescribed subject matter, undergo an extensive formation period.

He said that when he realized Catholics who are remarried without church sanction are excluded from leadership positions, he asked Jo Ann Bisone, Northern Virginia Cursillo lay director, for documentation. Unable to find information, she asked Sarg about it.

Sarg, from the Cursillo national headquarters in Dallas, wrote to Bisone Aug. 19 that:

1. The Cursillo movement is a

movement in the church, of the

church and for the church. 2. Team

members should give witness exemplifying

Christian life and be able

to receive the sacraments. 3. Individuals

living in an irregular marriage

(i.e., not recognized by the

church) would give antiwitness to

exemplary Christian life. 4. As a

movement, we have the right to

establish our own policy, in keeping

with the church's, as to who

can participate in it.

Bisone shared Sarg's letter with Gerner.

Gerner then wrote to Sarg Sept. 10, saying, "I find the policy, as stated, judgmental, exclusionary, uncomprehending of essential considerations and legalistically simplistic. Most of all, it is difficult for me to reconcile it with the example of Christ himself," who in the gospels never "in any way excluded any person who sought his company."

Gerner told Sarg his letter "conveys your understanding that persons in canonically |irregular' marriages may not receive the sacraments."

In fact, be told NCR, the U.S. bishops in 1977 rescinded an 1884 interdict enacted by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, which said people living in second marriages not recognized by the church were in a state of excommunication

Canon 912 of canon law says that "any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion."

Also, said Gerner, Canon 915 relates to the Eucharist, severely limiting exclusion from it. It states, "Those who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

And Canon 221.3 adds, "The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except in accord with the norm of the law."

Gerner also noted that Franciscan Father Barry Brunsman, in his book New Hope for Divorced Catholics, explains that exclusion from the Eucharist of a person remarried without annulment must "be the result of a trial, judicial or administrative, which allows the accused the right of self-defense."

Gerner said a canon lawyer told him that exclusion from the Eucharist must be applied by church authorities to individuals, never to classes or groups of people. He admitted that Pope John Paul II, in his 1981 pastoral letter Familiaris Consortio, reaffirms denial of the Eucharist to those whose second marriages are not witnessed or sanctioned by the official church. But "that doesn't track with canon law," Gerner said.

Among Gerner's additional questions to Sarg was whether "irregularly" married people, if excluded from team leadership, should also be excluded from Cursillo weekends.

And, he asked, if a "test of orthodoxy and/or virtue" is applied in cases of remarriage without annulment, should similar tests be applied in other situations for instance, "practices of contraceptive birth control or homosexuality" or by requiring loyalty oaths. Gerner, not having received a response to his Sept. 10 letter, wrote again to Sarg Nov. 30, saying that in the absence of reply, be intended to make his questions public.

Sarg wrote back Dec. 3, saying he had forwarded Gerner's earlier letter to Fargo Bishop James Sullivan, national episcopal adviser to Cursillo, then talked to Sullivan about it. Sullivan said he had not yet been able to give it the attention necessary for proper response," Sarg wrote. In that letter, he also told Gerner the subject would be on the Jan. 30 national secretariat agenda.

Sarg said his discussions with Sullivan did not involve the substance of the question. "This is a busy time of year for all of us," Sarg said.
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Dec 25, 1992
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